Crime gangs behind 68 murders over past five years
ORGANISED crime gangs have been responsible for 68 murders over the past five years.
The sinister threat posed by the mobsters was highlighted yesterday by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald as she sought Dail approval to keep special legislative powers in place for a further year.
She said the Government was backing an extension for the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 because organised crime continued to present a significant law-enforcement issue with a number of gangs involved in serious crime.
She told TDs the death toll gave stark evidence of the willingness of those gangs to commit murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, counterfeiting and drug smuggling.
There were also growing and inextricable links between paramilitary groups and organised crime, Mrs Fitzgerald added.
She said the 2009 act provided for a limited number of organised crime offences to be prosecuted in the non-jury Special Criminal Court to remove the possibility of jury tampering or intimidation of jurors.
Those offences included taking part in or contributing to a criminal organisation and committing a serious offence for it.
The Director of Public Prosecutions retained the discretion to determine that the offences should be tried in the ordinary courts and this maintained the fundamental balance in deciding which cases were appropriate for trial in the Special Criminal Court.
In a report to the minister on the operation of the relevant section of the act, Acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan held a clear view that those powers would be required for some time.
Mrs Fitzgerald said that as justice minister she must have the utmost regard for the views of the garda authorities in this area and the commissioner had the Government's full support in tackling what she called those scourges of society.
Over the past year there had been 29 arrests under the legislation and these had resulted in charges for offences ranging from murder to possession of firearms, burglary and handling of stolen property.
Mrs Fitzgerald also sought Dail approval for a year-long extension of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, 1998, which was introduced after the Omagh bombing.